And here we have another game that comes back from my childhood. In this case, it was a PC game my brother picked up. I think he was amused that the villain was a joker named Malcolm. But at the time, this game ended with anger as a glitch in his copy broke the game when he was approached by the knife-juggling joker, which broke down the game screen before it into garbled pixels, prematurely ending it all.
Years later, I found not only this game, but the entire trilogy on gog.com, and remembering an interesting title. I wanted to see how it ended, I picked it up, playing the first game for Extra Life… and I can’t say it was a bad decision. Come on in and see.
Story: Some say Malcolm was mad to begin with, which could well be true. Others say a drive for power drove the jester to regicide. But when he killed the king and queen of Kyrandia, he took much more then a caslte. Nestled within it is an artifact known as the Kyragem which while not the source of magic for the land, is the ultimate focus of it giving him access to more power then just about anyone else in the land.
Fortunately for everyone, his understanding wasn’t that great to match it, however, as the chief mystic was able to seal him in the castle, locking his malice driven spells to only within that confined space. In the meantime, the heir to the throne, a young boy named Brendan, just lost his parents and was in grave danger if he stayed in the castle with the mad man, so he whisked him away to be raised as a villager with him, never knowing his lineage or stolen inheritance.
But the past has a way of coming back to bite you in the ass, and Branden could not be kept safe forever. Without that focus to collect magic power from, the royal mystics who kept Malcolm trapped had to fuel the seal from there ever dwindling supplies of magic, and all the mad jester had to do was wait, and his day indeed came one day, setting him loose on Kyrandia seeking revenge, first on those who imprisoned him, and then on everyone else for not accepting him as their king!
And with one of those mystics that he personally wanted to make suffer being grandfather, Brendan was drawn in one day when visiting he found the old man turned to stone and the tree that made up the home explaining just how dire things had gotten.
From this point, you will guide Brendan as he stumbled through his fated quest to rescue his grandfather and the land itself from the evil jester. Doing so will bring you very few real twists and turns, but rather letting the game deliver it’s plot by character. It is simple, but it is very well delivered and you will find yourself wanting to follow through. Just understand there are few frills and the game will end on about the exact note you will expect.
Graphics: Legend of Kyrandia is a point-and-click adventure title to come out of the early 90s, and it shows in the style display the game will offer you. You will have about the bottom 3rd of the game screen dedicated to your interface and contain three panels for your options (in the form of a massive gem), inventory (in the form of 2 rows of five black squares), and magic powers (in the form of an amulet with four gems in it), all set in a blue/stone background, looking very nice and clean, but subdued. This is a good choice of style though, since it means most of your attention can go where it belongs watching the characters in the scene display.
That display will be the remaining 2rds of the screen (minus a boarder of a few pixels, but considering this is a 1992 MS-DOS game running at 320x240, it is very noticeable) and it looks simply incredible. The world you are going to wander around is colorful, varied, and very nice looking. Some scenes in particular are exceptionally beautiful despite the limit in technology at the time. But at the same time these scenes can also press the color limits the game was written in as you can see the fade used between colors, particularly in scenes that use a large open expanse, showing off the skyline of Kyrandia.
The only other issue I have with the graphics is reuse. It is a great tactic to save space to reuse scenes, but when you use the level of personal detail to each screen a lot of this game uses, you notice the repeats quite quickly, and the forests of this game fall victim to it. Do not get me wrong the cave system does it as well, but in that case, the scenes all look similar enough that you either don’t notice or you don’t care since the section does not set higher standards.
Sound: Once again the world of Kyrandia is forced to exist within the limits of technology available for well over 2 decades, but unlike the graphical aspects of this game, the sound does not carry across the ages so well. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to enjoy here. Just don’t expect it to be in the sound effects. To be quite honest they are exceptionally limited, most of them being tones more then actual effects. Nor is the music going to impress you either. It sounds alright, but it is fairly forgetful, as this was not the big audio focus of at least this version of the game. No, the place you want to go for entertainment is the voice acting.
This game is an MS-DOS point-and-click adventure game from the early days of CD-ROM technology, and if you are old enough to remember this age of PC gaming, you will remember how often any given game came in two flavors: 3.5 inch disks that (usually) needed to be installed to the hard drive and CD-ROM editions that were identical except they ran from the disc (using the hard drive only for saved games and settings) and all the dialog was also spoken. This version is often called the “talkie” edition and it’s the one readily available at the source link following this review (gog.com). And it will be here you are most entertained in this category, but not for the reasons I'm sure the developers would like you to. It’s not the worst acting I have ever heard, but between the writing and some artificial pauses made so a firsg generation CD-ROM drive can go to the right place to read from the data-disc without pause issues in the game itself OR so the user can still read if they desire, voice-work has aged pretty badly.
Gameplay: As mentioned in the other sections, Legend of Kyrandia is a point-and-click adventure in which you will guide Branden to find and defeat a jester named Malcolm who just escaped a magical imprisonment with the full magic of the land itself… and he wants revenge for being stuck there and being denied the title of King.
You will play this game by a very simple control system. In fact outside of naming your saved games, you will only use the left mouse button for the entire game. Clicking on a place on the screen will make Brendan walk there or as close to it as possible, provided you did not click on something interactive. Doing so will cause Brendan to interact with the person, creature, item, or whatever it is by talking to, using, or picking it up. There is no change in the cursor, which could lead to some confusion if not for how well the world was designed and how much the items you will pick up usually stand out from the rest of the screen. In fact there is only one place in this entire game I found this to be a problem.
However, that is not to say the cursor doesn’t change at all. Entrances to new scenes are marked off easily enough as the cursor will turn into an arrow pointing to that new scene when you move over these places. In most cases, this will be as you exit the scene to the border of the screen with your mouse, but there are occasional places marked within as well (like the elevator-branch that Brendan uses to go in and out of his grandfather’s house). In addition the game will change the cursor to let you know when one of these screen edges can’t be moved but you are beyond the border of the scene, making things pretty easy to navigate in an all around package.
Using items is also exceptionally easy, as it is as simple as click to pick it up (from the scene or your inventory) and click where you want to use it. If it’s an option, Brendan will do so. If not, you will drop it (on the scene or your inventory). This turns out to be to your advantage as well due to the inventory management you will have to do. There are a LOT of items you can pick up in this game, but only 10 slots in your inventory, so you are encouraged to once in a while drop what you won’t need just now and leave it there. The game will remember where you placed everything you dropped, so unless you do something stupid like throw something down a well, you will not lose anything in your inventory this way.
And with this slick and simple control scheme you are off to play through what is an overall very enjoyable adventure, but one that carries with it a lot of issues common to point-and-click design of it’s era. There are a few puzzles that are trial and error which will annoy you till you figure them out… in fact there are exactly three of them: the birthstones, the dark caves, and making potions. The first one will involve you wandering around and collecting gemstones and figuring out the order you should feed them to an alter.
The second is a maze of caves where in order to light your way, you have to keep pulling fire-berries off the bushes in some rooms. You will then be able to go through 3 rooms of the cavern before the berries burn out and you had better have found another room with it’s own light or found another bush, because the moment you step into a dark room, you are monster-food.
The third one will involve filling flasks with liquid made by dropping some plant (flower or fruit) into a cauldron of water with a gem to create a basic potion, and then combining those basic potions to create more advanced ones. The problem is you are given no idea what ones you need to make what and what each one does. You can always get more flasks to do this with, but it this kind of trial and error can be very annoying.
And of course if you do something stupid (like eating or dropping an item someplace stupid where you cant get it again) will put you into a dead-man-walking state, but that is why this game-style is always better when you can save wherever you like on as many files as you like, just like this game allows.
Bugs: While playing this game, I found exactly one bug towards the end of the game which put you in a dead-man-walking status.
- You Will NEVER get the Crown: Towards the end of the game you will need to find the royal crown to complete the last puzzle before the final confrontation with Malcolm. The problem is that the crown is hidden on the reverse side of a revolving style hidden door which you will need to go through independent of the puzzle, and if you do so before solving it, the puzzle will never open it properly, denying you access to one of the last key items in the entire game.
Overall: Legend of Kyrandia is a very solid point-and-click adventure with a solid (if somewhat simple) plot, great looking world, and smooth as butter gameplay. But it is also very much a product of it’s time, with issues like the ability to lock yourself out of winning, laughable voiced lines, and bug or two. To call it the best game ever would be a bald-faced lie, but it is a very good little title from a by-gone time that aged very well. If you like this kind of game, you could do far worse then to check it out.
Source’s Listed System Requirements:
- 1.8 Ghz processor
- 512 MB RAM
- Direct X 9c
- Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10
- AMD FX 8350 (8 cores) running at 4 Ghz
- 16 GB RAM
- NVidia Geforce 960 GTX with 4GB VRAM
- Windows 10